According to a new opinion poll released this morning by the Consumer Reports National Resource Center, most citizens are against the proposed coupling of Time Warner Cable and Comcast.
The poll showed that 11 percent of the public supported the merger, 56 percent opposed it and 32 percent had no opinion either way.
Consumer Reports said “large majorities agree that the deal will hurt consumers by leading to higher prices, fewer choices, and reduced incentives to provide good customer service.”
Consumer Reports has been very vocal in its opposition to the TWC/Comcast deal. It timed the release of the poll in advance of tonight’s hearing on the merger, which is scheduled to be held by the New York State Public Service Commission at its Manhattan office. Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, will testify at the hearing.
“Most Americans don’t have time to follow complicated corporate mergers but this deal has definitely captured the public’s attention,” Derakhshani said. “Most Americans don’t have time to follow complicated corporate mergers, but this deal has definitely captured the public’s attention. Consumers are tired of rising monthly bills and lousy customer service for cable and Internet and have little faith that this mega merger will make things any better.”
In response to the poll, Comcast issued the following statement this morning: “The combination of Comcast and Time Warner Cable will bring significant benefits to consumers, including innovative new products like the X1 Entertainment Operating System, faster Internet speeds, net neutrality protection, a more reliable and more secure network, low-cost Internet access and more diverse and independent programming to millions of additional Americans across the nation. It will also bring more investment and technology and new services to more homes and businesses. The transaction is a win for consumers.
“The transaction will not reduce competition — Comcast and Time Warner Cable do not operate in the same markets, so consumers will see no reduction in choice. Consumers will have the same number of choices of providers after the deal as they do today.”
In February Comcast announced a $45.2 billion merger with Time Warner Cable. Comcast hopes to have the Time Warner Cable deal closed by the end of this year, but there are still regulatory hurdles to clear.
In April, Comcast and Charter announced an agreement that included selling off 1.4 million Time Warner Cable subscribers to Charter, swapping 1.6 million subscribers between Comcast and Charter and spinning off 2.5 subs to form a new company called “SpinCo.”
Consumer Reports said it conducted “a nationally representative online survey” in April to gauge the public sentiment on the merger: Other findings from the poll included:
• 74 percent of Americans agreed that the merger would result in higher Internet and cable prices for everyone
• In contrast to Comcast’s position that the merger wouldn’t lessen competition among providers, 74 percent of Americans believed they would have fewer choices when it comes to cable and Internet providers because smaller companies will not be able to compete with Comcast
• 66 percent believed that Comcast would have little incentive to improve customer service because of the lack of competition while 54 percent of respondents said they thought customer satisfaction would get worse if the merger is approved
• 81 percent of Americans were concerned that Comcast’s increased market share would enable it to favor its own programming over its competitors’ if the merger is approved.
• Consumers were skeptical of the benefits Comcast has touted if the merger is allowed. Only 16 percent agreed that the merger would allow Comcast to operate more efficiently and lower its costs, and result in lower prices for consumers. One-third of the respondents agreed that the merger would allow the two companies to combine their capabilities to develop new innovative products and services for customers.
• 12 percent of Americans believed that mergers like this one were good for the economy overall while 61 percent said that if TWC/Comcast merger were approved it would encourage other large-scale mergers among TV/Internet companies trying to keep up. (The Consumer Reports survey was conducted ahead of the proposed merger between AT&T and DirecTV.)
The Consumer Reports survey on the proposed merger was fielded online from April 22-29, 2014 to a national panel of 1,573 individuals. Recruitment quotas were designed to approximate a nationally representative sample.
“Comcast and Time Warner Cable have consistently scored poorly when it comes to customer satisfaction so it’s no surprise that Americans are skeptical of this proposed deal,” said Derakhshani. “Most consumers expect the merger will turn things from bad to worse.”
In May, a survey by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Comcast and Time Warner Cable were at the bottom of the rankings. Comcast and Time Warner Cable dropped 5 percent and 7 percent, respectively, in the survey’s video customer satisfaction rankings. On a 100-point scale, Comcast scored a 60 while Time Warner Cable came in last at 56, which was the latter’s lowest score to date.
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